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Learn To Properly Warmup For Cold Weather Exercise

picture of man diving in ice freezing water

There are plenty of crazy people who love to exercise outdoors in the cold weather. You may even be one of them!

There is nothing wrong with this. In fact exercising in the cold even has some health benefits.

However soft tissue injuries are more likely to occur when exercising in the cold. Muscles and tendons are less elastic and more likely to strain from the rapid lengthening and shortening that occurs during exercise.

The first lady of CHP learned this lesson the hard way. Debbie thought that she could perform a very abbreviated warmup before partaking in a sprinting workout. However when initially accelerating for her first sprint she strained both of her quads.

How could this happen? She is married to a brilliant clinician (take a guess at who is writing this post?) after all!

Sprinting causes rapid lengthening and shortening of the quadricep muscles during the drive (pushing) and recovery (flexion) phase of the running cycle. Debbie’s muscles were still cold and unprepared for this rapid change in length resulting in a strain.

What could she have done differently?

Debbie was already doing a great job of incorporating functional movements into her warmup that replicate the running pattern. She performed a series of lunges, single leg squats and light jogging.

However, she was still cold as the temperature was below freezing.

She needed to add more repetitions of movement, a larger variety of movement and/or a greater volume of movement. Even more light jogging would suffice.

The goal is always to have a light sweat before the meat of the workout begins. The forehead should be glistening (this works for bald guys like me).

Warming up is much more important as the weather becomes colder and is a mistake that even the best of us can make!

-Dr. Zachary Cohen PT, DPT, CSCS

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